Natural Law Theory

In attempting to garner an understanding of the nature of law, early legal philosophers and academics formulated what has come to be known as the natural law theory, and has become a literal cornerstone of the development of modern legal thinking.  Although somewhat limited in modern jurisprudence thinking, natural law has had a tremendous impact on our understanding of what law means in society as a baseline from which to build more complex theories.  In this article, we will look at some of the major propositions underpinning the concept of natural law, and the corresponding strengths and weaknesses of this fundamental interpretation of the legal function.

Natural law starts with the basic premise that the law is driven by morality, and consequently is affected by it.  With a history extending back to Aristotle and other early philosophers, the natural law theory has traditionally linked the law with religion and an innate sense of justice, rather than the more pragmatic approaches of some other theories.  Although this might sound rather basic, the principals have been developed and refined through academic debate for centuries ultimately leading to a far more sophisticated theory of the nature of law.  The idea that all law is subject to an unwritten code of morality is fundamental to natural law.  This also throws up some potential problems in terms of civil regulation.  Certain natural law theorists suggest that for a law to be binding on the citizen, it must conform to this sense of natural justice.  However, there is clearly no definitive objective concept of morality, which casts doubt over this principle.  Additionally, the prospect that a law may be disregarded in favour of some higher sense of morality doesn’t conform in reality, considering the potential implications of consistently disregarding law on the grounds of the subjective concept of justice.

Furthermore on this primitive understanding of natural law, the citizen in contravention to the laws of his state, could attempt to excuse his actions through a justification of ‘immoral’ laws.  This would also create a state of disorder, given the natural variation of personal opinions, which would ultimately render society unworkable.  For this reason, the natural law scheme has failed to garner modern academic acceptance, of course with a few exceptions.

Natural law has been proposed as a consideration in trying war criminals, on the basis of the retrospectivity principle, i.e. no man can be tried for a crime that was not a crime when he committed it.  Many war criminals are merely cogs in the machine of a legal regime, which ultimately permits their actions, however unjustifiable morally.  Natural law theories give a basis for challenge on these grounds, whilst avoiding the awkward question of direct legal contravention, which ultimately works to serve justice.  In this sense, it is perhaps useful as a canon of interpretation and in determining just and equitable outcomes in ‘difficult’ cases.  However, as a wider legal concept, natural law and the proposed intersection between law and morality seems too awkward to reconcile with considered academic legal understandings.  Having said that, natural law has provided an excellent starting position for further advanced argumentation, and has provided a platform for critique that has been essential to the development of the more sophisticated ideas held in regard in this modern day.

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Minimising Tax Liability On Death

When we die, most of us leave behind a fairly substantial and intricate web of assets and liabilities, including money, our home and our other possessions.  In most jurisdictions, there arises a liability to tax on death that must be borne from the totality of the estate, and this can lead to a significant reduction of inheritance for our loved ones.  Having said that, there are a number of ways in which liability to tax on death can be vastly reduced whilst still ensuring sufficient legacies and provisions mortis causa.  In this article, we will look at some of the most salient ways in which one can seek to minimize his estate’s liability to tax on death, and ways in which careful planning can help increase the legacies we leave behind.

Tax liability on death usually arises through bad inheritance planning, and a lack of legal consideration.  Of course to a certain extent it is unavoidable, but with some care and consideration it is possible to reduce liability overall.  There’s absolutely no point in making legacies in a will which won’t be fulfilled until after death and which haven’t been properly considered in light of the relevant legal provisions.  If you haven’t done so already, it is extremely advisable to consult an attorney on minimising liability on death, and on effective estate planning to avoid these potential problems and to ensure your family are left with more in their pockets.

If you intend to leave legacies to family members of a specific quantity or nature, it may be wise to do so at least a decade before you die, which will ultimately divert any potential legal challenges upon death which would give rise to tax liability.  Obviously there is seldom any way to tell precisely when you are going to die, but making legacies at least a decade beforehand avoids any liability that might be attached on death.  In effect, donating during your lifetime well before you die means you can still provide for your family and friend without having to pay the corresponding tax bill.

Another good way to minimize tax liability is to get rid of assets during your lifetime by way of gifts to friends and family.  One of the most effective ways to do this is to transfer your house to your children during your lifetime, or to move the house into a trust for which you are a beneficiary.  This means you remain functionally the owner, but legally, the asset doesn’t feature in your estate on death and therefore doesn’t attract tax liability.  Again, it is of great importance to ensure that the transfer is made well before death to avoid potential challenges and potential inclusion in the estate which would lead to inheritance tax liability.

Death is a particularly important phase in our lives, particularly in legal terms.  The change between owning our own property and distributing owner less property provides a range of challenges, and the controversial tax implications can cause serious problems.  Without careful planning and an expert hand, it can be easy to amass a significant tax bill for your loved ones to bear.  However, with the right direction, it can be easy to use the relevant mechanisms to minimize the potential liability to tax on your estate upon death.

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Gun Control Under Debate

After the recent massacre at Virginia Tech, once again the mammoth issue of gun control has been brought up at full force.  Many are highly upset that even after gun control laws have been enacted that the killer in the massacre was approved for a gun and purchased it in less than 30 minutes.  Many have speculated that had there been much harsher guidelines in place, that the sale would not have been completed, and it could have potentially saved all of the lives that were tragically lost in the disaster.

The death toll from the massacre has risen to over 30 killed and more than 20 wounded.  This is aside from the emotional damage that has been caused to the hundreds who are left grieving in the wake, and those who experienced first hand the trauma of the event.  How can such events really be avoided?  Is it possible to avoid such tragedy with firmer gun laws?

What about the programs that offer rewards in the form of video game systems, computers and even cash in exchange for turning guns into the police?  Are these programs effective?  In order to truly control guns, there has to be consensus around the country where everyone agrees that it is time for a change and the change occurs quickly, and without opposition.  Gun laws are clearly too lax, and our country needs to take action to avoid scenes like those in Virginia from reoccurring.

The chances of something such as this happening are almost impossible.  Neither side of the political arena can agree with the other side about what appropriate gun control is, and with many residents of the United States being avid hunters whom use riffles and shotguns on an almost daily basis, it makes it very difficult to control all of the actions and movements that occur.

Consider that many weapons used in crimes are illegally obtained; it makes it very difficult to determine how effective the stiffer gun laws would really be.  With a new Presidential Primary due to start in the near future, it will seem as if there will be much heavy debate over how to control the flow of guns into the hands of those who are dangerous, or potentially dangerous.

Facts remain, that while the election is likely to focus on this issue, there is still the issue of preserving the Constitutional right to “bear arms” as long as it is done legally, and those who already have the weapons currently can potentially be just as dangerous as those looking to purchase the guns in the future.  We are left with the task of trying to avoid the tragedy as much as possible.

Colorado stepped up to the plate with a swift action enacting much stiffer gun laws after the Columbine school massacre in which two teenage boys entered their school donning trench coats and heavy weapons leaving a wake of blood and fallen students in the path.  Colorado decided to avoid future incidents and enact the tougher laws.  It is suspected that Virginia will follow in this path.  The fate of the country rests in the hands of those elected to the public offices to help determine exactly how far gun control should go, and how the changes should occur.

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Executive Compensation to the People

There is a bill in the progress before the House of Representatives that is trying to put the issue of the pay and compensation package that executives of publicly traded companies receive in front of stockholders.  This bill is actually expected to pass through the house successfully; however, it is unclear how well the Senate will receive it.  Is this bill the right direction for a modern America, or do we need to consider more intimately the economic implications of such a decision?

The White House has already formally registered its opposition to such a plan, however the backers are unconcerned.  Many feel that the compensation plans of the major officers of the publicly traded companies should be tied to the performance of the company and the officers themselves, and not to the figures that the officers wish to receive.

This bill if passed could place an enormous amount of power into the hands of stockholders who are upset with the way several companies have behaved lately, with declining profits and horrible business practices while the officers of the companies have picked up large compensation packages that include their salary, benefits, and stock options.  Each officer can end up with hundreds if not thousands in profits even while the company is performing badly, which stockholders believe is an inequitable outcome.

Many have wondered if the officers in charge of these companies would tighten the belts on spending if their own pay was tied to their performance rather than their wishes, and with numerous companies falling short of profits with huge pay packages going out, and raises occurring almost yearly many investors have started complaining loudly.

While current President Bush has urged the officers of the companies to step up and take responsibility.  He has also said that it is not an issue that the government should become involved in.  How far should the government extend into a private business?  How many people would really feel comfortable with the idea of having the government determine what their pay could be?  Most Americans can agree that they would not like the idea of the government interfering with their job and pays.

At the same time, while most Americans do not wish to have the government intruding into their jobs and careers, many still want some measures put into place to hold the executives accountable who are responsible for multi-million and multi-billion companies that employ hundreds to thousands of people.

Many have argued that the concept is nothing new; it is similar to ideas that are currently in place in countries such as Sweden, Australia and even in Britain.  With examples such as those to follow, it makes people wonder if this actually does have the chance to pass through the House of Representatives and the Senate once the voting time has arrived.

With time as the key factor, there is scheduled to be a vote on the issue in the House of Representatives in the very near future, which is very much expected to pass without much opposition.  It is the next step in the Senate that is where it starts getting sticky with people unsure of the results once the voting in the Senate starts.  However, with increasing support from the people, many of whom work for companies affected by this issue, there is scope for a mass political influence, which will certainly make the outcome interesting.

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Copyright Laws

Copyright is a legal fiction designed to protect the works of artists, inventors and innovators.  In essence, it is a legal bar, allowing exclusivity for those who create works in the form of an intangible asset which can be sold or relinquished, and which expires upon a certain period of time.  With the growth of the internet, and the creation of more and more content, the question of copyright is becoming increasingly more relevant, and one which more and more webmasters are considering to protect their own interests.  Additionally, with the rise of the freelancer market, the issue of copyright is becoming a heated topic of debate for both buyers and sellers at every stage in the production chain, and the effects of not having the relevant rights could be potentially catastrophic.  In this article, we’ll look at what exactly copyright is, and how it relates to the internet in content creation.

Copyright is an artificial concept that gives the creator of a work, or the person he sells the right to, the legal right to use or modify in whole or in part, and to call their own.  It has a different meaning in most jurisdictions, however the basic principle is the same: the creator owns the original copyright to the work in question, and has the freedom to pass this on at will, usually in consideration for money.  Where a creator is working on commission, copyright is designed to act as a lien in his favour, meaning that if he creates and passes on but does not receive payment, he can withhold copyright and sue for breach where applicable.  Of course, he would also have remedies under the ordinary law of contract, but the grasp of copyright is a very powerful tool, which can even be used against the third party buyer from the original commissioner.

Copyright is designed as a tool to cover what is known as intellectual property.  Committing intellectual thoughts and ideas to paper, or making them tangible is usually sufficient to give rise to the copyright protection, which usually lasts for a number of decades in preventing others from steeling ideas.  This is primarily designed to encourage forward thinking and art, and can be a vital tool in protecting the financial interests of those responsible for some of the world’s most vital progressions.  Consider the inventors of the seatbelt, Volvo.  Volvo could have used their copyright to prevent other manufacturers from installing seat belts, and this would have been sufficient to protect any other manufacturer from doing so.  Of course they waived their rights for the safety of the general public, which is also a possible consideration for the creator of something new and innovative.

Copyright is an exhaustible right, and it usually expires on a given date, after which all works enter the public domain.  This means that those who create new products have sufficient time to capitalise on their idea before the world at large can join in.  Unfortunately for many musicians, this means their artistic works can no longer make them money specifically, and can be used royalty free; a fact that has caused much uproar and unrest in recent years.

Copyright is a dynamic area of the law, and is particularly relevant to the internet.  As more and more content of more and more varieties is created online, there comes a need to find protection in copyright law to prevent unscrupulous parties from using content without authorisation.  In combating this, a number of international legal organisations have been established with a view to tackling copyright violation, and helping those without legal support to fight cases for the protection of their work.  It is undoubtedly an area of law that is on the ascendancy, as lawyers worldwide strive to find a cohesive structure to online intellectual property law, and the protections online authors should be afforded for creating their works.  At least within national boundaries, it is highly possible to rely on copyright laws to protect and govern material.

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